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Giallo Essentials Collection Vol. 2 |What Have They Done to Your Daughters? / Torso / Strip Nude for Your Killer|
Arrow Video compiles three of their previously released giallo pictures in one convenient boxed set titled, appropriately enough, Giallo Essentials. Here's what is contained in the set…
What Have They Done To Your Daughters?:
Massimo Dallamano directed this 1974 film as a pseudo follow-up to What Have You Done To Solange?, a picture he'd made two years prior but this film is far less a traditional giallo than the earlier picture. Rather, the film blends giallo elements with the type of action and high-intensity police procedural aspects that were common in the police films popular in Italy at the time. The results are impressive.
Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf), a cop based out of Rome, gets a phone call from an unnamed informant and based on the information he receives, heads out to investigate. This leads him to an old abandoned attic where he finds the naked corpse of a teenaged girl named Silvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan) hung from the rafters. At first, Valentini and the rest of the cops figure this is a clear case of suicide (despite the fact that it was tipped off to the cops by an anonymous caller). Given that Valentini has a daughter about the same age as the victim he just found, he takes this case very seriously. Before long, Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli), the Assistant District Attorney, starts to suspect foul play. She looks into Silvia's past and finds that there are a few reasons to be suspicious.
The case is handed over to Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli). As he starts snooping around and connecting the dots surrounding Silvia's death, he unearths an underground teenage prostitution operation. It would seem that one of the clients serviced by this ring is willing to do whatever it takes to keep those involved from talking, even if that means murder. As the bodies pile up, the cops quickly realize, as they sift through suspect after suspect, that they're running out of time.
Despite a few logic gaps and plot devices best described as remarkably coincidental, What Have They Done To Your Daughters? Is a pretty slick thriller, the kind that easily holds your attention thanks to the right mix of style and substance. The film is well paced and the director's background as a cinematographer ensures that it always looks great. The story does deal in some pretty dark subject matter, more sensitive viewers could very easily be put off by the subject matter and by how underage prostitution is not only dealt with but displayed throughout certain segments of the film. However, you don't get the impression that Dallamano is going for titillation here so much as he's trying to hammer into the viewership the complete disdain that these criminals have for their ‘product.' The girls were once innocent, but by the time those working things behind the scenes are done with them, that innocence is long gone. This is all played very straight and with a clearly serious intent.
The story itself does a lot of finger pointing, taking pot shots at the government and its corrupt officials, at an Italian society willing to turn a blind eye to certain disreputable acts and at the police themselves. There's a lot of social commentary here, it's thinly veiled and occasionally heavy handed but no less poignant for it. Stelvio Cipriani's score is excellent and the performances are quite strong across the board. Adorf in particular really shines here, showing some pretty serious range in the picture, particularly when it all becomes more than he's able to really cope with. Likewise, Claudio Cassinelli steals a few scenes here too. Little details about her character make you wonder just how personally she's taking this case and why.
Ultimately if this isn't quite as good as Solange, it comes damn close. A very worthy follow up made by a talented cast and crew, this is a film that deals in some very unpleasant subject matter, but it does so by providing plenty of food for thought alongside its expertly directed action set pieces and hard-edged mystery tropes.
"Enter… if you dare, the bizarre world of the psychosexual mind!" You've got to love a tagline like that, right? How much more salacious can you get? Throw that over top of an image of a guy wielding a giant hacksaw and a foxy lady in a tight-fitting nightgown and you've hit movie marketing gold!
While not quite as popular as Dario Argento and Mario Bava, the giallo films directed by genre-hopper Sergio Martino are popular with fans for the genre for good reason. Even if his films weren't quite as hyper-stylized as the aforementioned Godfathers' efforts, Martino still managed to crank out some stylish and influential films before the popularity of the genre started to wane… and one of his most entertaining efforts is Torso.
The picture begins in Rome where four young female art students are busy studying and periodically getting it on with their professor. This is a fairly randy lot, everyone seems to be having sex with everyone else, but hey, it was the Europe of the early seventies, wasn't it like this all across the continent? Regardless, a couple of girls from the school are found dead, the victim of a maniac with a penchant for sharp instruments of destruction and a thing for strangulation. All the local cops have to go on is a red scarf found at the scene of the last crime, though that turns out to be a more important clue than they first realize.
The girls try to figure out why that scarf looks familiar but decide their efforts would be better put to use by focusing on a countryside vacation (which seems to involve drinking a lot of J&B, smoking, playing the piano and even indulging in a little girl on girl lesbian sex!). The whole group heads out of the city to get away from it all for a bit, in hopes that the cops will solve the crime and no one else will get their eyes poked out or their fun-bags carved in. However, as luck would have it, the killer has followed them and he's not even close to finished with them yet.
Stylishly directed and quite quickly paced by Martino, who is probably best known for All The Colors Of The Dark and The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (both of which are better films than this one, at least from a critical perspective if not an entertainment value perspective), Torso is a pretty grisly thriller with enough sex and violence to satiate all but the most demanding of exploitation and horror junkies. Martino keeps the action moving quickly and if the few red herrings aren't so successful in throwing us off the real identity of the killer, at least this slightly predictable giallo delivers lots of naked ladies and blood.
Speaking of those naked ladies, the film really benefits quite a bit from the presence of the lovely Suzy Kendall (best known for Argento's The Bird With The Crystal Plumage) and sultry Tina Aumont (star of Salon Kitty), along with a couple of other lovely Eurobabes who frequently get naked for Martino's leering lens. Not nearly as sexy or naked is Luc Merenda, the stoic and heroic star of cult favorites like The Big Racket, The Last Round and Gambling City (also directed by Martino). His role, while more of a supporting effort, is an interesting one even if the English dubbing doesn't quite feel right (thankfully the disc offers up an Italian track that improves on that somewhat. More on that in a bit).
While, as mentioned, the film is a little on the predictable side, it remains a surprisingly mean-spirited slasher picture with a lot of crazed energy, bizarre if very creative murder set pieces, and a great score from the De Angelis brothers. It makes excellent use of its locations, from the courtyard square of a small town full of horny guys eager to ogle the ladies right to that fancy villa up on the hills where the girls go to relax. It's also an unusually voyeuristic film, putting SEX in the forefront of the viewer's mind right from the opening scene and upping the sleaze ante considerably by doing so. It might not be the highpoint of the giallo cycle but it's certainly a worthwhile entry that, to some fans, really does embody what the genre was all about.
Arrow Video's Blu-ray release includes the ninety-minute ‘uncensored English version' and the ninety-four-minute ‘director's cut.' When watching the director's cut with the English track enabled the footage that was never dubbed will switch over to Italian with English subtitles automatically. The differences are minor (a couple of dialogue bits and some different shots here and there) but it's nice to have both versions included. These were also included on the past Blue Underground release, however, on top of that we also get a ninety-minute Carnal Violence version or a slightly shorter U.S. version that uses different sources including a tape to recreate the cut that Joseph Brenner brought to theaters in its original North American release.
Strip Nude For Your Killer:
If the title of the film doesn't alert you to the sleaze factor contained in Strip Nude For Your Killer (directed by Andrea ‘This cloth smells like death' Bianchi), the opening scene where a woman dies during an abortion procedure will.
From here we follow the lives of a group of people who are all intertwined through their work at a modeling/fashion photography studio. One by one these people are hunted down and sliced and diced by a maniac in a leather suit and a motorcycle helmet. But what is the motive? Why is the killer after these people? Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), the top photographer at the agency, and his lady friend Magda (the always lovely Edwige Fenech) are intent on finding out just who is behind the rash of murders, and hopefully why… but will they do that before everyone winds up dead?
While the film lacks the intensity or sophisticated visual flair of a Dario Argento giallo or the artistic murder set pieces of some of Mario Bava's work, Strip Nude For Your Killer is still an entertaining film, even if it rests somewhere approximating the bottom of the barrel. The title of the film certainly implies a lot of sex and violence and it isn't misleading, in fact, the plot seems to exist for the sole reason of stringing along the voyeuristic viewer bold enough to sit down with the film from one naked dead corpse to the next, though you've got to give Bianchi credit for assembling a veritable bevy of beauties to lay down and die this time around. While the plot isn't exactly an engrossing affair, Bianchi seems to know this and makes up for it by piling on the sex, blood, and sleaze. If it isn't high art, who cares. It works and it works well.
The film does have some style, however, and while it isn't as slick looking as the best that the genre has to offer, it's not a bad looking film and it does make nice use of some interesting sets (the dark room of the photography studio) and copious amounts of bright colors. Edwige Fenech, who is frequently seen parading around in nothing but her birthday suit, looks great here with her pixie cut hairdo. If leading man Nino Castelnuovo probably isn't going to be an A-lister in Hollywood anytime soon, he proves capable of carrying the film and is up to the admittedly less than challenging dialogue and characterizations presented to him in the film.
Don't turn to this one for an intelligent movie or for a particularly well-made movie. Turn to this one if you want a dumbed down slasher with lots of pretty naked ladies and some good kill scenes. If you expect much more from it you'll likely find yourself disappointed but going into the movie with proper expectations finds that it's an entertaining diversion and a bit of a guilty pleasure.
What Have They Done To Your Daughters? arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video with a transfer that appears to mirror the one used for Camera Obscura's Blu-ray release from 2016. The film is presented on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded transfer that is framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks fantastic. Taken from a scan of the original negative, the transfer on this disc really blows previous DVD releases out of the water. Detail is fantastic from start to finish and there's none of that weird scanner noise that occasionally shows up on Italian titles released to Blu-ray. Detail is quite strong and there's consistently impressive clarity here throughout. There are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Film grain is here, looking nice and natural, but it's never distracting and there's very little actual print damage to note. On top of that we get great looking color reproduction, strong black levels and perfect skin tones.
Arrow brings Torso to Blu-ray for a second time, following Blue Underground's release, with a ‘brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative' on a 50GB disc framed at 1.66.1 and presented in 1080p high definition. This is noticeably darker than the first Blu-ray release, but it also looks much better and much more natural. Detail is excellent and color reproduction is great. There's no print damage to note, while grain remains intact, as it should. Skin tones look nice and natural and there are no noticeable issues with compression or noise reduction. This is a pretty strong upgrade over what we've seen before.
Strip Nude For Your Killer arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video on a 50GB disc in a 2.35.1 widescreen transfer taken from a "brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative" and presented in 1080p high definition. This looks quite a bit better than the older Blue Underground release; more film-like, with slightly different framing showing more information on the sides. The colors are more natural here and skin tones look more realistic. We get nice, deep black levels and good shadow detail. The image shows natural grain but little actual print damage and is free of compression issues or noise reduction. Detail and texture are very strong throughout and there's no noticeable noise reduction here.
The audio for What Have They Done To Your Daughters? is presented in your choice of Italian and English language DTS-HD Mono options, with removable subtitles translating the Italian track available in English only and English SDH offered for the English track. Individual preference will come into play in terms of which dub you like the most, but the English track does seem to match the lip movements of the actors more often than not. Regardless, clarity of both tracks is quite good. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and the levels are properly balanced. The English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors.
For Torso, the original Italian and English language mono options are provided in LPCM format with proper English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack and optional English SDH offered for the English track. Both tracks sound pretty decent, with properly balanced levels and clear dialogue. However, Arrow does note the following:
"The English audio track on the original, longer cut has some portions of English audio missing. English audio for these sections was either never recorded or has been lost. As such, these sequences are presented with Italian audio, subtitled in English."
Original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks are offered up for Strip Nude For Your Killer, presented in LPCM Mono with optional English subtitles for the Italian mix and optional English SDH subtitles for the English track. Both tracks sound good, with clean, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to note. Subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.
Arrow includes some exclusive extras on their release of What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, starting with a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films. He talks about how the film connects to the other two pictures in the trilogy and gives plenty of background information on the director's work both as a director and, equally as important, as a cinematographer. He makes some interesting comparisons between this film and other giallo pictures made around the same time, offers up some cast and crew trivia, and makes some observations about the effectiveness of specific scenes while also discussing the soundtrack, certain shot setups and more.
Also exclusive to this release is Masters And Slaves: Power, Corruption & Decadence In The Cinema Of Massimo Dallamano, which is a new twenty-minute video essay by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine. It's a fairly heady but equally interesting deep dive into how specific characters are portrayed and why throughout the director's work, with an emphasis on the human dynamic that ties different characters together.
Carried over from the Camera Obscura disc is Eternal Melody, a forty-eight-minute piece with composer Stelvio Cipriani. Essentially this is a career spanning interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani who talks about how he sort of fell into the composing business and the film industry after learning music before then going on to share some interesting anecdotes from throughout his career. There's also some talk about his work specifically for this picture, what he tries to bring to each film he works on and how he ties this into the film's genre, how he goes about composing and more. Throughout the interview Cipriani plays various cues on his piano. It's a pretty great piece and a must for anyone with an interesting in Italian genre film soundtracks.
Again carried over from the Camera Obscura disc is Dallamano's Touch. This is a lengthy, twenty-minute talk with editor Antonio Siciliano who worked with Dallamano on a few different films including What Have They Done To Your Daughters?. Here he talks about the man's directing style, what it was like collaborating with him on various projects, the importance of having the right composer onboard when making a film, and how he got into editing and the film business in the first place.
Arrow also includes about five minutes of unused sex footage revolving around a portly, older man (sometimes hiding his face with some sort of Kabuki theater style mask) being taken care of by a gaggle of dark haired ladies. This is fairly strong stuff and you can see why it wasn't used in the final cut of the movie.
Rounding out the extras are the film's original Italian theatrical trailer, some optional English credits, a large still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Reversible cover art is also included.
As to the extras for Torso, they start off with an audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino. As you might expect, there's a good bit of focus here on the director and his work not just on this film but on the other giallo films that he was involved with over the years. Ellinger has quite a bit to say about what makes his films effective in this area but in addition to that she also lends some insight into the cast and crew, the score, the camerawork and quite a bit more. She manages to cover a lot of ground and the track is quite thorough.
After that, we dive into the first of a series of interviews recorded for this release. Sergio Martino speaks for thirty-four-minutes about where the inspiration for the story came from, earlier versions that he had written, how the film fared at the box office and a fair bit more. Actor Luc Merenda gets his shot next in a thirty-five-minute piece that finds the actor talking about how he compares personally to some of the characters that he's played, different films that he's appeared in, some of the people that he's collaborated with and more. It doesn't really cover his work in Torso, but Merenda's a legend and it's nice to see him included here. From there, co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi talks for twenty-nine-minutes about some of his early work before then going on to cover much of the work that he and Martino collaborated on… again omitting Torso for some reason. Filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino, speaks for twenty-five-minutes about her time at film school in New York and her thoughts on this film and how it compares to other pictures that her father has had a hand in creating over the years. The last interview gets Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema And The Italian Giallo Film, on camera for twenty-five-minutes to offer up his thoughts on how Torso compares to a lot of the slasher films that would follow in its wake and how the giallo cycle evolved over the years.
Arrow additionally provides a forty-seven-minute video documenting the 2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino where he talks about his career in quite a bit of detail before then discussing the evolution of Italian pictures, including but not limited to horror pictures.
Italian and English theatrical trailers, menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc, which also comes packaged with some reversible cover sleeve art.
Extras on the Strip Nude For Your Killer disc start off with an audio commentary by HORRORPEDIA.com's Adrian J. Smith and David Flint. These guys are clearly having a good time dissecting the film, putting it into context alongside other entries in the giallo boom and discussing the impact of some of the film's more notorious set pieces. There's lots of talk here about the cast, Ms. Fenech in particular, as well as Bianchi's directing style. The track strikes a good balance between critical analysis and insight and facts/trivia and can, at times, be quite humorous.
From there we move on to the featurettes, beginning with Sex And Death With A Smile, a video essay by author and critic Kat Ellinger on the iconic Edwige Fenech. Here, over twenty-three-minutes, Ellinger tracks the rise of Fenech's career throughout the sex comedy and giallo genres that were popular in Italy around the time she was starting to gain popularity. As the talk plays out she offers some interesting commentary about certain films and provides some welcome biographical information on the actress as well.
A Good Man For The Murders is a ‘newly edited' video interview with actor Nino Castelnuovo that spends fourteen-minutes educating us, in the man's own words, about his career by covering not just his work on this film but some of the other pictures he made including his work with Lucio Fulci. The Blonde Salamander is a new nineteen-minute video interview with actress Erna Schurer that covers how she got into acting, some of the roles she's played over the years, why certain parts and characters appeal to her more than others and her thoughts on Biachi as a director. The Art Of Helping gets assistant director Daniele Sangiorgi in front of the camera for a new interview running forty-four-minutes in length. In this lengthy talk he takes us through his career, from the early days through to working on this picture and then some of the later pictures he was involved with. He notes that he got along well with Bianchi, in contrast to Sangiorgi's thoughts on the man, and tells some interesting stories from the time that he spent on this production. The last interview is Jack Of All Trades and it features actor and production manager Tino Polenghi on camera for just under twenty-two-minutes. He offers his thoughts on the film, working with producers Sergio and Guglielmo Simonetti, his involvement in other Italian exploitation pictures over the years and more.
Rounding out the extras are two versions of the opening scene (tinted and untinted versions), original Italian and English theatrical trailers, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Note that the extras on the Blue Underground disc remain exclusive to that release.
Although the discs mirror the previous releases, note that the insert booklets that came with those first editions are not carried over to this boxed set. What is new to this release, however, is some very cool boxed set packaging. The three discs load into the side of a sturdy yellow box that in turn fits inside a slipcover with a circle cut out exposing the dramatic artwork underneath. With a bright yellow base color, it does a nice job of replicating the look of a vintage giallo paperback.
Arrow's release of Giallo Essentials doesn't offer much aside from an admittedly nice box to those who picked up the single disc editions of the films contained therein, but if you don't already have those discs, this is a nice way to get your hands on three very nice presentations of three very different but equally entertaining, giallo pictures. If you call into that category, then this release comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.